A distracted work day. You know the kind of day I mean. You sit down to get some work done, but the mojo just isn’t flowing. You can’t produce whatever it is you’re supposed to be producing. (In my case, it’s writing.) It’s not that you’re blocked or you don’t know what you’re doing. You just can’t stay focused.
So you sit there staring at whatever it is you should be doing. (In my case, a blank page in Word.) And since that doesn’t help, you decide to go putter around on Facebook. Where you waste half an hour of your precious time.
Still nothing. (Grrrrr)
So you get up to do something, and promptly forget what it was you were going to do. You end up staring out the window at the squirrels chasing each other around the yard, or something similar. Until you snap out of it and realize you’re supposed to be working.
When you’re a small business owner, this can be a serious problem. You have to stay focused to stay in business. You know you have to get your work done. But the only person to keep you on task is… well… you.
If you can’t buckle down and get your work done, you’ll have some very disappointed customers and an empty bank account. Not a good combination.
So how do you get yourself back on track?
Here are 4 ideas on how to stay focused when you work for yourself and you’re just not able to concentrate on your work.
Walk Away for a While
Yes, this sounds counter intuitive. But it works. If you’re unable to concentrate on what you’re doing, get up and do something totally unrelated to what you’re trying to accomplish.
Here are the things I tend to do when I can’t stay focused:
- Go for a walk: I find that getting out of my house and clearing my head helps me get back on track when I get back to my computer (or whatever it is I’m doing).
- Do a couple of chores or errands: I spend a few minutes tidying the kitchen or putting in a load of laundry. If I can run a short errand, I’ll do that to get myself out of the house and out of my own head.
- Do something in the same general field, but not directly related to your current project: For example, I sit down and read books or articles on marketing. I usually find something that inspires me and helps me to continue with the project I should really be working on.
Work on a Different Project
I know that as a freelancer, I like to have several projects I’m working on at once, so if I get stuck on one of them, I can pick up another and stay productive.
I do this when it comes to my own work for marketing my business as well. You’re reading this blog post because I was having a terrible time writing the post I’d started on this week, about using social proof in your marketing. You’ll probably see that one next week, when I’ve had more time to ponder.
Do More Research
Sometimes you can’t figure out what you’re doing because you don’t have all the information you need. Yes, this can even happen when you’re making something you’ve made hundreds of times before.
I used to have this issue when I was building period costumes for Renaissance Festival performers. Sometimes I’d have to stop sewing and go back to look at my original reference material. Or I’d have to look up period methods of construction so I got the look of whatever I was making “right,” even if I was using modern materials.
I do this today when I’m writing. I may sit down with an idea of what I want to write, but once I’m faced with an empty page, I realize I’m missing information I need to get my point across to you. So I spend some time searching the Internet or my own library. That way I do a better job of writing and you get a more useful resource.
Plunge in and Do It Anyway
This may be more effective for those of us who have the opportunity to revise than for people who are manufacturing the same product over and over. But it can still apply.
When I write, I know I’m writing a first draft. So I sit down and put something “on paper.” (Okay, on the screen.) When I’m having a distracted day, this can take a while. And it usually doesn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. But it’s a start.
Even if I end up trashing the whole thing, writing that first draft has gotten the juices flowing. The next time around, I end up with something I can use. And with some careful editing, it becomes a finished product that I can present to my client for review. Or to you as a blog post, like this one.
Ultimately, You’re the One in Charge
One of the lovely things about being your own boss is you get to make the decisions. So if you decide to work late to make up for lost time, you can. By the same token, you’re also the one responsible for getting the work done.
There will be days when your brain just can’t or won’t focus on the project at hand. On those days, be gentle with yourself and coax that brain back to work. Yelling at it (and yourself) rarely helps you stay focused.
Once you get back in that groove, enjoy it and get as much of it done as you can. And hold on to that groove as long as possible. Until the next time your brain gets distracted. Then try the tactics in this blog post again.
How do You Stay Focused?
Do you have certain things you do to get yourself in the work groove? How do you break the distracted cycle? Tell me about it in the comments.